DETROIT, Mich. (May 1, 2013) – Before heading to South America this week National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand spent Monday and Tuesday covering the Detroit media landscape promoting the upcoming Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. The highlight of the trip for Hildebrand was throwing out the first pitch at Comerica Park prior to the game between the Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. Hildebrand, who was a successful high school baseball player, was allowed to throw from the top of the pitcher’s mound – a rarity for the ceremonial first pitch – and fired a strike, to the cheers of fans in attendance.

“I took a little off of (the throw), but I painted a strike on the outside corner,” Hildebrand said. “I thought it was cool they let me go up on the mound because most of the time when you throw out the first pitch you can’t go up there.”

Prior to the game Hildebrand was able to meet reining Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and, one of his favorite players in the game, pitcher Justin Verlander. Hildebrand and Verlander exchanged jerseys before the game, and JR was surprised to hear that the former league MVP and Cy Young Award winner bought a ticket and attended the recent IndyCar race in Long Beach.

“It’s always cool to get to meet those guys, and I was surprised because both of them totally knew what IndyCar was all about,” JR continued. “Cabrera was asking about EJ Viso and Verlander knows James Jakes because they both spend the offseason in Orlando (Fla.), and he actually just bought a ticket and went to the Long Beach race because they were in town to play the Angels.”

Hildebrand attempted to conceal his love of his hometown San Francisco Giants while a guest of the Tigers, but he couldn’t help but recall that less than a year ago he attended two World Series games at Comerica Park, where he watched the Giants take the championship away from the National League champion Tigers.

“I enjoy the city and the ballpark here is awesome,” Hildebrand said. “Considering we were cheering for the opposing team when we were up here last year, I felt like the Tigers fans were all super cool and treated us with a lot of respect. But, yeah, being able to watch my hometown San Francisco Giants close out the World Series here last year is such a great memory.”